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Rays making progress with top pick Upton

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 11, 2002


ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays finally might be close to signing first-round draft pick B. J. Upton.

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays finally might be close to signing first-round draft pick B. J. Upton.

A meeting between top Rays officials, including general manager Chuck LaMar and managing general partner Vince Naimoli, and Upton representatives was said to produce progress and had the sides close, or at least closer, to a deal Tuesday night.

The Rays had offered Upton a $4.5-million bonus spread over five years, but they are believed to have increased the total value of their package to be similar to the $4.8-million they gave top pick Dewon Brazelton last year.

Upton, a multitalented shortstop who generally was considered the best player in the draft, has been considering enrolling in junior college, which added a sense of urgency to the talks.

Rays officials have remained hopeful, and at times optimistic, about signing Upton, who compares himself to Yankees All-Star Derek Jeter.

The Rays officials traveled to Virginia, where the Uptons live, for Tuesday's meeting. The parties are expected to keep talking and could finalize the deal within the next few days.

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